Defense Minister Yasuo Ichikawa on Tuesday sacked Mr. Satoshi Tanaka, head of the Okinawa Defense Bureau, for making a contemptuous remark about women and the Okinawan people. The remark concerned the government plan to relocate U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma from densely populated Ginowan City on Okinawa Island to the coastal Henoko area, further north on the island.
In a Naha pub Monday night, Mr. Tanaka was asked by reporters why Mr. Ichikawa does not specify the timing for submitting to Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima an environmental impact assessment report on the relocation — a legally required procedure for a large project like the Henoko plan, which requires land reclamation from the sea. Mr. Tanaka replied, “Do you say (to a woman), ‘I am going to rape you,’ before you rape her?”
Although this was an off-the-record statement, the Ryukyu Shimpo newspaper reported it Tuesday morning in the belief that the statement markedly lacked respect to human rights and that Okinawans and readers should know what Mr. Tanaka’s thinking was on such a controversial matter.
Mr. Tanaka’s statement suggests that the government is determined to submit the environmental impact assessment report to Gov. Nakaima regardless of how strong Okinawan people’s opposition to the Henoko plan may be. In February 2010, the Okinawa prefectural assembly unanimously adopted a resolution calling for moving Futenma’s functions outside Okinawa Prefecture.
Government leaders should recall that the rape of a 12-year-old girl in 1995 by three American military men helped to trigger Japan-U.S. talks on relocating Futenma air station. In view of this history, Mr. Tanaka’s statement deserves condemnation. It will further fan Okinawan people’s anger toward the Henoko plan and the government. One could take Mr. Tanaka’s statement as an indication of the government’s real intent — to keep dumping the burden of hosting U.S. military bases on Okinawa Prefecture.
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda should realize that trustful relations no longer exist between his administration and the Okinawan people, and that the Henoko plan has no chance of being implemented. So, Tokyo and Washington should scrap the plan and present a new one acceptable to local people.